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NBA expands drug screening to offseason

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 11:40 p.m. MST

NBA players have agreed to additional drug testing, adding offseason screening for performance-enhancing drugs only.

Union executive director Billy Hunter sent a memo Wednesday, obtained by The Associated Press, to players detailing these and other changes of a new labor deal and recommended they ratify the agreement.

Less clear is a provision for human growth hormone testing.

According to the memo, an NBA-NBPA joint committee would study the "possibility of an HGH testing program." NBA spokesman Mike Bass, however, insisted both sides agreed to HGH blood testing, subject to the process being validated by a "neutral committee of experts."

It wasn't immediately clear who would be on that panel.

Major League Baseball and its players recently agreed to start HGH testing in spring training. The NFL's new labor contract included a provision for HGH testing as soon as this season — but only once the NFLPA approved the process. That hasn't happened, in part because the NFLPA says it needs more information about the test itself.

No matter what, players will face additional testing if the deal is ratified. According to the memo, beginning in the 2012-13 season, players can be tested up to two times during the offseason for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs only. They would not be screened for drugs such as marijuana.

Previously, the NBA did not test players during its July-September offseason. The memo said a majority of players will be tested no more than four times throughout an entire year, and that no tests could be given at the arena on the night of a game.

Players began voting electronically on the deal Wednesday night and could vote through Thursday afternoon, when owners will hold a meeting in New York to vote. If the deal is ratified by a majority on both sides, the NBA fully reopens for business Friday with the beginning of training camps and free agency.

Owners and players reached a tentative agreement on the main issues Nov. 26, and owners soon after opened up the arenas so players could begin workouts without coaches present. In the meantime, lawyers for both sides continued to negotiate a lengthy list of "B-list" items right into Wednesday.

Among the items agreed upon, per Hunter's memo:

— A joint NBA-NBPA committee will discuss the age limit, which for now remains 19 years and one year out of high school.

— Players with 3 years of service or less may be assigned to the NBA Development League, with no limit on the number of assignments. No player with more than three years of service may be assigned to the D-League without his consent.

LAKERS OWNER HOSPITALIZED: Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized because of blood clots in his legs. Team spokesman John Black said Wednesday night that the 77-year-old owner is expected to be released in the next couple of days. Black says the condition was the result of "excessive travel" by Buss, who had been in New York recently for NBA lockout negotiations.

ADELMAN NAMES STAFF: Rick Adelman is bringing plenty of familiar faces with him to the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff. Adelman announced on Wednesday that Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, T.R. Dunn and Bill Bayno will join him as assistants on his staff.

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